a community engagement initiative of Waverly Community Unit District #6
Since COVID, Waverly’s teachers have been trying to find new ways of re-engaging students with classroom learning. So many children today grew up in a world of personal technological devices and use apps and games on their phones without realizing how much effort goes into creating them.
Waverly’s tech wizard, Sam Hamra, and Golden Apple Teacher, Olin Kingston, are working hard to change that by integrating technology into the rigorous curricula in their new eGaming class. Both men bring a unique perspective and versatile skill set to the new program.
Because the process of game development includes artistic, business, marketing communications, and programming components, there is something that almost every student will enjoy.
eGaming at Waverly
Students in the course begin with an idea and go through the process of figuring out how to actually develop their ideas into games. From graphic design and story boards through creating budgets and marketing plans, students learn about how much work needs to go into a game before programmers ever begin to work on it. Students watch videos about real-life developers who successfully created their own games, and those enrolled in the course have opportunities to compete against each other as well as students from other schools in game developing competitions. The 14 juniors and seniors taking the course include students who lean towards math and science, those who are college-bound, and those who aren’t. Because the process of game development includes artistic, business, marketing communications, and programming components, there is something that almost every student will enjoy. eGaming is currently only open to juniors and seniors, but its teachers hope that they can eventually expand it into a program open to middle schoolers and even older elementary school students.
Sam and Olin are both working hard to make the eGaming program a success, but each took a very different path to get to where they are today. Sam is from Springfield and got exposed to the world of technology when he joined the military. Sam says that everyone from architectural engineers to electricians uses technology—“technology isn’t just for nerds sitting around in Mom and Dad’s basement.” At Waverly, Sam is a one-man shop for everything from fixing computer screens to designing firewalls and controlling building access. Olin, on the other hand, grew up on a farm near Franklin and went to college for business, marketing, and economics before working in insurance and real estate. He moved to Colorado and found a passion for food, and he began working for his cousin’s catering company back in Illinois. He knew the schools in Waverly from catering and began working as a substitute teacher in 2020, continuing in 2021. When a full-time teaching position opened up, he took it and is now working on his professional educator’s license online at Eastern Illinois University. With their respective backgrounds in technology and business, they make a natural pair for the eGaming program.
Both Sam and Olin have found an accepting, tight-knit community in Waverly that they continue to actively foster. Waverly is at once both small and a world of its own. The town has twice the population of Franklin, and the 347 students generate more than enough IT needs to keep Sam on his toes. Still, it is a safe, friendly community in which everybody knows each other. Sam and Olin want Waverly’s students to graduate with the life skills and experience needed to thrive in the future, and it seems clear that technology will be an important part of life into the foreseeable future. While they hope eGaming is fun for their students, the skills it provides students are so much bigger than the games they will create.